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Future of Holy Cross, Nativity Are Unknown

Maria High School, 6727 S. California Ave, apparently will become a charter school in 2013.

For 100 years, Maria has served the Southwest Side of Chicago as an all-girl Catholic school.

But the announcement came last week that Maria will no longer continue to operate as a Catholic institution because it is no longer financially possible. But officials said they do wish to continue as a school.{{more}}

Next year, Maria Catalyst could begin accepting enrollment from students in kindergarten through eighth grade; in the following year, it is planned that they will begin accepting students in kindergarten through 12th grade.

The decision to operate as a charter school is pending approval by the Chicago Public Schools in November.

And the decision to close the Catholic high school could affect other area institutions, including Nativity BVM, 6820 S. Washtenaw Ave., and Holy Cross Hospital, 2701 W. 68th St.

The Sisters of St. Casimir serve Maria High School, as well as Holy Cross Hospital.

With the future of Maria now known, some wonder what will become of the Sisters.

Months ago, Holy Cross Hospital noted that it is battling financial difficulties, and it was believed that there was the possibility it might close its doors.

But its future seemed encouraging when it was announced that Vanguard had stepped in and planned on purchasing the struggling facility.

However, it was announced in the summer that Vanguard had backed off from the deal and decided not to purchase Holy Cross.

Right now, the future of Holy Cross is unknown.

Dennis Ryan, communications director for Holy Cross, said they will not comment on the issue.

ÒWe have served the community for 100 years and we are proud of what we have accomplished in all this time,” said Sister Margaret Zalot, SSC, president emerita at Maria. ÒWe have seen over 14,000 girls come through our doors and graduate and go on to fulfill very successful lives.

ÒThis building was built and designed to accommodate a thousand students, and with enrollment decreasing, it is not a financially responsible thing to continue to operate.

ÒWe are pleased with a Catalyst school taking over. We have had the chance to attend a catalyst school to see how it is run and we were pleased with the outcome of what we saw.

ÒThey are focused on getting a good education and instilling values in their students, similar to what Maria set out to do.

Nativity BVM, which has long been affiliated with Maria, currently has 70 students, from preschool to eighth grade.

For years, many girl students who graduated from Nativity went on to attend Maria.

Despite enrollment being down, Nativity says it still has high hopes for the future.

ÒWe are uncertain of what the future will bring with the closing of Maria,” said Robert Gawlik, principal of Nativity. ÒWe just have to wait and see what happens in the next few years with Maria to see how we will be affected.”

Gawlik says that there are still families who believe in Nativity and continue to enroll their children in the school.

ÒBeing a small school, this has helped our students in terms of getting a more one-on-one education from their teachers,” Gawlik said. ÒBut this has also turned parents away.”

Gawlik added that the closing of Maria is concerning.”

ÒBut we have had a public school on the opposite side of us and we have made it this far,” he said. ÒWe are not discouraged. We love our students, and that’s why we are here.”

Sister Margaret pointed out that the new school will be co-ed and most of the current faculty will have the ability to apply for positions with the new school.

ÒWe will continue to operate until the final vote is made to transfer Maria over,” said Sister Margaret. ÒThe sisters will remain in the community and the catalyst school has informed us that they will value our presence here. We will continue to serve Holy Cross and live in the house. It will just no longer be our responsibility to manage the school.”

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